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The Lockdown Diaries #11

IN his final diary entry, QPR fan Sam Taylor looks back on a bizarre period of time - and his excitement at the return of football!

So, the time has come. The return of professional football is imminent.

Next Saturday QPR return to an empty KPFS against Barnsley, in the hope of picking up where we left off back in March. The downside to the resumption of the season is that this is my final entry to the Lockdown Diaries, and so I thought I’d reflect on the past few months as a QPR fan to wrap up this column I have thoroughly enjoyed writing.

Back in March I remember praying that lockdown would wait just one day extra to start so that I could go to W12 one more time for our clash with Barnsley. Obviously that didn’t happen and the disappointment was inevitable.

If I were to be told at the beginning of the year that just as QPR were getting into a solid run of form, the season would be paused for over three months, I would’ve appropriately invested in a cryogenic freezer to preserve myself in, whilst the world spirals into chaos without Ebere Eze’s footwork ruling a Saturday afternoon.

But it hasn’t actually been that horrific. Something we’ve definitely learned or at least come to more acknowledgement of these past few months that I think is a fantastic feat, is how vast the footballing world actually is.

Sometimes, you get lost, mid-season, your team’s not doing well, you feel fed up, frustrated, aggravated, and you sincerely think that life couldn’t be worse. Well, this time period without football has proven just how familiar that feeling is to millions of fans across the globe.

Twitter can be a place of regular negativity, but in this time, social media seems to have played such a massive part in keeping us football fanatics sane. If I wasn’t provided with my weekly Wallpaper Wednesday, or my occasional fix of Adel Taraabt throwbacks, I honestly can’t imagine where my mental state would be at right now. Football is so much more than the ball being played around for ninety minutes on the weekend, and the football family has truly proved that over this bizarre period of time.

I’ve been a QPR fan all my life. My family have been QPR fans for nearly 100 years, stretching back to the 1920’s. Not once in those years has there been quite a time like this. See, normally us QPR fans have to suffer quite a bit. We love them dearly but QPR aren’t exactly what you may call, relaxing. We tend to give our fans quite a hard time watching, whether it’s a defensive struggle or an attacking mishap, QPR never fail to ‘entertain’. So, to be quite honest, I cannot say that it is completely unlike QPR to have a three-month break in the football season due to a global pandemic.

We’ve been through some weirder stuff than that. Remember when Angel Rangel scored a brace at Stoke last season? Or when Karl Henry decided he was going to have a go from 700 yards and was successful? Or what about that time we actually beat Fulham away from home, on TV, from behind, three years ago? That’s certainly not a daily occurrence. Needless to say, QPR are good at surprises and this unprecedented time in world football is surely in line with our club’s mantra; Never fail to be totally ridiculous.

I thought I’d pick out some of my highlights from this lockdown period of time.

Firstly, I spent about an hour the other day sorting through all my QPR shirts and programmes which I’ve been collecting over the years. What I learnt from that is one, I have too much time on my hands, two, we have never had a better shirt than the 83/84 Guinness number, and three, the amount of club merchandise my family owns and amount of money we’ve spent at the club over our 100 years of support, surely must be enough to cover the costs of a new stadium somewhere.

The money we’ve spent on QPR gnomes alone must be able to cover a stand or two, the garden is truly swarming with them!

Another QPR related moment from lockdown that has truly been memorable was getting replied to on Twitter from some of my favourite R’s players.

As I said before Twitter can be a dangerous place but when the English Xavi, Dominic Ball, is liking and retweeting your post about him being underrated, it truly is a redeeming feeling.

It has been such a fantastic experience being able to write for QPR. QPR is a massive part of my life and as an aspiring sports journalist one can only really dream of being a regular columnist for your own football club at the age of 18.

Sitting down, analysing each month, has been both stressful, as expected when dealing with QPR, but also incredibly uplifting to be able to reflect on what has actually been a highly eventful season.

Most years, the season goes on and on and on until it ends, you have a couple of months off, and then football returns and you start afresh. It is very rare to have the time to be able to reflect mid-season in such detail. It feels like we’ve been granted a three-month pit stop to be able to freshen up before what I expect will be a very heavy end to the season.

The EFL should look to add three-month season rests at this time in the future, considering the mayhem that The Championship truly brings. It’s quite cathartic to have some time off, especially as things start to heat up toward the conclusive stages of the year. The Championship can get pretty stressful, especially as an R’s fan.

Then again, not having QPR to pivot my week around has been incredibly difficult as I’m sure it has been for all football fans everywhere with their clubs. As I said in my first Lockdown Diary, football is very much a part of the centre of my world. QPR is the highlight of many of our weeks. Being able to flood in to the KPFS on a cold, rainy, Tuesday night in November, brings with it one of the strongest feelings of joy one can only pray for.

I miss being in Shepherds Bush. Rushing to the game, buying my programme. Getting to our seats, watching in awe as all of our attacking players fail to score a goal in the pre-match warm up. Watching Jude the Cat put all other football mascots to shame with his ‘Diversity’ level dance moves. Sitting through 45minutes of slightly above average football. Watching with raw anticipation as a 12-year-old attempts to kick a football into a rubbish bin. Watching another 45 minutes of slightly better football and then hopefully singing ‘Hi-Ho Queens Park Rangers’ as we head for the exits.

And, of course, the all-important post-match traffic as we listen to sports reports beaming with joy after a 1-0 victory against a lower mid-table side to shoot us all the way up to the high levels of 14th in the Championship.

I can’t wait for QPR to return. Although we won’t be there in the flesh, those fake crowd noises look pretty acceptable and I’ll be sure to be recreating my matchday experience from home as best I can. I’ll make my own programmes, announce the line-ups to my Grandma over the phone come 2pm and hire two elderly QPR supporters, to shout sweary, indecent, yet surprisingly wise, abuse at the referee from my lounge to truly make up my matchday essentials. Besides, it’s not the worst thing to have a more comfortable seat to sit in to accompany a highly-uncomfortable 90 minutes of football.

Although this is my last column for the club I can only appreciate how brilliant this writing experience has been for me. My A-Levels got cancelled, my prospective Uni has stayed quiet, and my life has been thrown around a bit, but to be able to anchor my weeks with two weekly columns for the love of my life, QPR, has provided some much needed sanity to this bizarre period of time.

The world’s a weird place and QPR are a weird club. I hope when we return next Saturday we will try to be a bit less weird, and I’m sure Mark and the boys have been working incredibly hard to get back to our best and I have no doubt we will push through those final games as positively and with as much strength as we can manage.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading what I’ve had to say over the past few months and it has been truly amazing to have such a direct involvement with the club.

Here’s hoping everyone stays safe and well during these oncoming months and I am entirely relieved to finally have my QPR back in my life in the upcoming weeks.

From next Saturday life resumes and that means QPR routine is back. So all we can do now is sit back, watch the boys, shout at the TV, try not to have too many panic attacks and be thankful that football is once again back in our lives!

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